Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Brendan Smith, has condemned in the strongest terms, the attack on Mr. Kevin Lunney, Director and Chief Operating Officer of Quinn Industrial Holdings.
Deputy Smith also said that the thugs who carried out this deplorable attack must be caught and brought to justice as a matter of urgency.
Deputy Smith said, “I utterly condemn the attack which saw Mr. Lunney abducted and brutally assaulted as he was returning to his family home just across the border in Co. Fermanagh.
“This is the latest in a series of attacks on members of Quinn Industrial Holdings and I am particularly concerned that no arrests have been made, either side of the border, to date. It is a campaign of intimidation and the Gardaí and the PSNI must work together to ensure it ends and those responsible are brought to justice.
“I wish Mr. Lunney a speedy recovery, and I am thinking of him and his family at what must be a very frightening time. I reiterate again the need for these reprehensible thugs to be brought to justice and I hope they feel the full force of the law”, concluded Deputy Smith.
______________________________________________ For Written Answer on :06/09/2019 Question Number(s): 461Question Reference(s): 36507/19 Department:Education and Skills Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D. ______________________________________________
To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to improve the conditions of employment of school secretaries; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
I recognise the very important work done by school secretaries, and indeed by other support staff, in the running of our schools and I am grateful to them for the contribution they make to our education system. I have spoken to a number of school secretaries about their employment conditions and understand the issues they have raised.
I have recently relaxed the moratorium for those C&C and ETB schools with enrolments of 700 and more which allow them to employ an additional School Secretaries up to a maximum of two per school. There are 91 schools in the C&C and ETB Sector who meet this criteria, based on the information currently available to this Department. This is an initial step and has taken immediate effect.
Schemes were initiated in 1978 and 1979 for the employment of Clerical Officers and Caretakers in schools. The schemes were withdrawn completely in 2008.
These schemes have been superseded by the more extensive capitation grant schemes. The current grant scheme was agreed in the context of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, published in 1991.
The majority of primary and voluntary secondary schools now receive assistance to provide for secretarial, caretaking and cleaning services under these grant schemes. It is a matter for each individual school to decide how best to apply the grant funding to suit its particular needs. Where a school uses the grant funding for caretaking or secretarial purposes, any staff taken on to support those functions are employees of individual schools. Specific responsibility for the pay and conditions rests with the school.
On foot of a Chairman’s Note to the Lansdowne Road Agreement, my Department engaged with the Unions representing school secretaries and caretakers, including through an independent arbitration process in 2015. The Arbitrator recommended a cumulative pay increase of 10% between 2016 and 2019 for staff and that a minimum hourly pay rate of €13 be phased in over that period. This arbitration agreement covers the period up to 31 December 2019.
The arbitration agreement was designed to be of greatest benefit to lower-paid secretaries and caretakers. For example, a Secretary or Caretaker who was paid the then minimum wage of €8.65 per hour in 2015 prior to the arbitration has from 1 January 2019, been paid €13 per hour which is a 50% increase in that individual’s hourly pay.
Officials from my Department attended a meeting of the Joint Committee on Education and Skills on the 9th of April to discuss the status of non-teaching staff.
Officials from my Department had discussions with FÓRSA trade union representatives in May as part of a planned meeting. FÓRSA took the opportunity to formally table a pay claim.
This was tabled as a follow-on claim from the current pay agreement for this cohort of staff which lasts until December 2019. The Department issued surveys on the 10th of July to establish the full current cost of the trade union’s claim. This is standard practice.
FÓRSA’s claim will be fully considered once the current costings have been determined on completion of these surveys. The Department is fully open to having further dialogue with FÓRSA once this work has been undertaken.
Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan/Monaghan and Chairman of the All Party Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade and Defence, Brendan Smith, says the Minister for Defence should urgently address the mass exodus of personnel in the Defence Forces.
Figures obtained by Fianna Fáil reveal thousands of Defence Force members are opting to discharge by purchase.
Deputy Smith commented, “The figures speak for themselves, we need real action from Minister Kehoe to stop this retention crisis, not more empty rhetoric. The figures offer further evidence of the crippling morale crisis in the Defence Forces which is causing the mass, unsustainable exodus that Minister Kehoe is presiding over.
“It is essential that the number of personnel in our Defence Forces increases to ensure that they can carry out all their duties in a proper manner. Additional security requirements will arise from Brexit and over the years our Army carried out important and much needed security operations in our border areas. As a TD for a border constituency I am particularly conscious of that good work that was carried out over the years by our Permanent Defence Forces.
“We need real action from the Minister to stop this retention crisis, not more empty rhetoric. He needs to address the actual problems across the army, navy and air corps with serious measures that will restore pride in the uniform and make a career in the Defence Forces a realistic, credible and attractive option. These numbers don’t lie.
“It is also particularly concerning that almost half of those who sought to buy their way out over the last three years are recruits who had just recently joined up,” concluded Deputy Smith.
Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Brendan Smith, has called on meat processors to return to talks, remove legal threats and agree to address key outstanding issues in reconvened beef talks.
Deputy Smith commented, “The previous round of talks were unsuccessful due to the failure of meat processors to properly address a number of key issues in the beef supply chain and it is simply not acceptable that they now refuse to engage further in reconvened beef talks.
“Instead Meat Processors should immediately announce that they will remove all legal threats to farmers and indicate a willingness to address key outstanding issues. It is only by doing this that farmers can have any confidence that the renewed talks can deliver a constructive outcome.
“Meat Processors must accept that they will have to address key issues such as the 30 months age limit, the four movement rule, and the 70 day residency requirement if farmers are to accept that meat processors are serious about addressing their concerns.
“Last weeks meeting of the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee agreed to a Fianna Fáil proposal mandating the Minister for Agriculture to initiate the immediate resumption of talks and calling for meat processors to demonstrate a willingness to address these key issues. The Committee also unanimously agreed the necessity for retailers to be included in talks.
“It is most disappointing to see retailers also refuse to take part in talks due to start yesterday and Minister Creed must insist on their attendance. All involved in the beef supply chain must show respect for farmers who are the primary producer by attending the talks. Minister Creed must also ensure that those who are representing farmers on the protest lines are fully included in negotiations.
“There is an onus on Minister Creed to now ensure that meat processors and retailers engage in reconvened talks immediately. All must realise that it is only by getting back around the talks table that the current crisis can be resolved,” concluded Deputy Brendan Smith.
Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith has once again voiced his strong opposition to the proposed closure of St. Bricin’s College, Belturbet and St. Mogue’s College, Bawnboy. He said that the Minister’s decision is most regrettable and that there had not been adequate or meaningful consultation as required by Department regulations. He also added and there is not buy-in by the local communities in Bawnboy and Belturbet to this proposed development which is also a Department requirement for school amalgamations.
“Minister McHugh promised to meet a deputation, representatives of both St. Mogue’s and St. Bricin’s, and he failed to honour this commitment despite a number of follow up requests in relation to a date for the meeting.
Replies to Parliamentary Questions and other Debates in Dáil Éireann have been far from adequate and actually amounted to non-answers; for example the most recent reply to a Dáil Question due for answer last Friday in relation to a meeting once again did not reply to the question posed (please see attached) and again this is unacceptable.
Both the Minister and his Department have questions to answer in relation to what analysis or consideration was given to the case I put forward through Parliamentary Questions and a Topical Issue Debate in relation to this important matter. Similarly both Save our Schools St Bricin’s College and St Mogue’s College made very strong submissions backed up with excellent research and data in relation to retaining both schools and the Fine Gael Minister Joe McHugh must answer what considerations, if any, were given to their views. It is obvious that such submissions were ignored”, stated Deputy Brendan Smith.
______________________________________________ For Written Answer on :06/09/2019 Question Number(s): 458Question Reference(s): 36468/19 Department:Education and Skills Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D. ______________________________________________
To ask the Minister for Education and Skills when he will meet with a deputation as requested by local community groups (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Details Supplied) REQUEST BY SAVE OUR SCHOOLS COMMITTEE – ST BRICIN’S COLLEGE, BELTURBET, CO CAVAN AND ST MOGUE’S COLLEGE, BAWNBOY, CO CAVAN
I wish to advise the Deputy that the decision making authority for any amalgamation belongs to the Patron/Trustees of the schools, and this is then subject to the approval of my Department.
In this regard, consultations with the various stakeholders are held with the Patrons in question and I understand that this has taken place locally.
Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Brendan Smith, has criticised the slow delivery of urgently needed mental health posts which are required to fulfil the commitments made under the national mental health strategy, A Vision for Change.
Deputy Smith commented, “Just 11 of the 176 mental health posts that were approved for 2018 have been filled to date. It is very worrying 165 new hires are still needed to meet the target approved for 2018.
“Right now there are excessively long waiting lists for mental health services in Cavan-Monaghan, whether in CAMHS or for psychology appointments in primary care. Despite these lengthy waiting times and the fact almost €16 million in funding was provided to support recruitment, just one in sixteen positions have been filled. That’s less than €1 million.
“It’s clear we need a new approach. Last year the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Mental Health Care published a report which proposed among other things to consider the introduction of special allowances for psychiatric nurses.
“The Minister for Health needs to give serious attention to such recommendations. Otherwise we will continue to fail in recruiting vitally needed mental health staff,” concluded Deputy Brendan Smith.
Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Brendan Smith, has called on the Minister for Agriculture to immediately resume beef crisis talks today rather than wait until Monday.
Deputy Smith said, “The Minister must immediately resume talks. Waiting until Monday to reconvene a second round of talks is unacceptable and will benefit no one. We need to recommence talks straight away while the momentum is there.
“A Fianna Fáil proposal was passed at this week’s Oireachtas Agricultural Committee meeting mandating the Minister for Agriculture to seek the immediate resumption of talks and calling for meat processors to demonstrate a willingness to address these issues as part of a renewed talks process. The Committee also unanimously agreed the necessity for retailers to be included in talks.
“The Minister has chosen to ignore the will of the committee that talks should reconvene. I am surprised there is no urgency from the Minister to get back to the table. It is important those talks resume and it should happen today”, concluded Deputy Smith.
-Suicide rates in Cavan and Monaghan both twice above the national average-
Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Brendan Smith, has called for a multi-agency response and the setting up of a task force to put in place a Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention Action Plan to understand and tackle the suicide crisis in Cavan-Monaghan.
Deputy Smith made the calls as figures from the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) reveals County Monaghan has the highest suicide rate in the country, followed by County Cavan with the second highest rate.
He commented, “It is tragic to read the statistics from the report. I personally know some of the families who have been affected by suicide. It is a tragedy that impacts an entire community.
“In Monaghan the suicide rate is highest nationwide at 17.1 and Cavan at 16.7. Behind each of these deaths are devastated families and friends. Suicide is preventable with access to timely and appropriate supports. However, it is very clear from these statistics that not enough of those supports are available in Cavan-Monaghan.
“It is most concerning that the national average is 8.2. No county should have twice the suicide rate of the national average. Sadly, this is the case in our constituency.
“I am calling on the Minister for Health and the HSE who urgently need to organise a multi-agency response and set up a task force to put in place a Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention Action Plan to understand and tackle the suicide crisis in Cavan -Monaghan,” concluded Deputy Smith.
Please see report from the NOSP which details a breakdown of figures.
Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Brendan Smith, says the Minister for Agriculture must immediately reconvene talks to address the continuing beef crisis.
Deputy Smith commented, “It is vital Minister Creed now reconvenes talks to address the continuing crisis in the beef sector. In Cavan-Monaghan protests have been ongoing.
“I welcome the meeting that took place last night to appoint spokespersons to represent protesting farmers in any reconvened talks. The Minister must now immediately reconvene talks between Meat Processors and these representatives along with representatives of the Beef Plan Movement and all farming organisations. It is also essential that talks on this occasion include retailer representatives.
“New talks must comprehensively address issues such as the 30-month rule, 4 movement rule and the 70 day residency requirement. We will not resolve issues without talks. It is imperative they reconvene as soon as possible.
“An outcome of reconvened talks should also include a commitment from the Minister to seek additional market disturbance funding from the European Commission to address losses experienced by farmers in recent months.
“The Minister needs to show leadership and bring all stakeholders through this crisis to an agreeable solution,” concluded Deputy Smith.
Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Brendan Smith, has called on the government to outline to Irish citizens what its plan for a no-deal Brexit are.
Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “It is really concerning to see British politics further disintegrate as we approach the Brexit deadline of October 31st. By suspending parliament Prime Minister Johnson has only deepened the divide in British politics and move us further away from getting a Brexit deal done.
“It is hard to predict the outcome of Brexit. Each day the situation takes a new turn. The only consistent seems to be the lack of apparent preparedness or clarity from government.
“Clearly our own domestic preparations must be ramped up by government as a no deal Brexit now seems very likely. Ministers here have failed to clearly outline what a no deal Brexit will look like. Farmers and exporters have been left in the lurch and have been unable to get a straight answer when they ask where the border checks will be if a no deal comes to pass.
“The government has simply not been open with its plans leaving individuals and businesses facing a no deal Brexit unable to properly prepare. For those of us living in the Border Region our concerns are amplified by our unique situation.
“What we need from government now is transparency. This has been severely lacking and with just over two months to go until a possible crash out by the UK, this is simply no longer acceptable”, concluded Deputy Brendan Smith.